thank you gifts

Really important Ed note: If you teach my child, please don’t read this until after Christmas. Or maybe not at all unless you want to know exactly what you’re getting from us and exactly what it cost and then think I’m a cheapskate and possibly strain our really wonderful relationship. Please. Cause it would so suck if you found out that the awesome sterling silver apple charm I gave you was only six bucks. I’m begging. Go check out Suri’s Burn Book. Trust me. It’s hilarious. I’ll see you tomorrow.


This time of year, friends often ask for ideas on how to honor the people in their children’s lives. And it’s a tricky business, this gift giving – on a lot of levels. While in some cases a pony probably wouldn’t be nearly sufficient to show our gratitude, most of us don’t have the means, nor is it really appropriate, to buy lavish gifts for teachers.

But then what does one do for that one teacher who has been not just willing but eager to step outside of the box and meet your kiddo exactly where he is? Or for that art teacher who unlocked something in your baby and made him feel special like no one else could? Or the custodian who found a way to connect with your girl?

Between my two girls, there are eighteen teachers, aides, therapists and various and sundry other angels who make it onto our Christmas list.


And if Katie had her way, there would be many more. I finally drew the line at ‘that really nice lady who comes in every other week, but I don’t remember her name.’ Um, no.

But with eighteen on our list (not to mention another twenty seven for whom I create a favor at the aide appreciation luncheon), I’ve gotten pretty good at this. Or maybe I haven’t. Maybe our gifts actually suck. I guess that’s possible, but people do seem pretty appreciative. Ya know, of our appreciation. Cause it’s nice to be appreciated. OK, this is going nowhere. Moving on.

So since people ask so often, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite gift ideas. It’s sort of like Oprah’s favorite things except that I’m not giving you any of them and well, you can get them yourself anyway cause I think the most expensive one is $13. So maybe it’s really not much like Oprah’s favorite things at all. Though I’d like to think she’d like them.

Ed note: Please note that I do NOT receive compensation in any way, shape, nor form from any of the manufacturers listed below or anyone else for that matter. And that’s probably for the best because if I did, someone would be getting a pony.

Last point and then I’ll shut up and post the gift ideas, I promise … Friends often ask if we get the same thing for everyone in order to keep it ‘fair’. The answer is a resounding no. While there are people that I give something to as a matter of course, there are others who deserve far more. That person who speaks up in a team meeting? The one who eschews the talking points in favor of real dialogue about my kid? The one who send e-mails in the evening because she ‘had a thought about something that might be helpful for Brooke’? Yeah, they’re getting the pony.

So here goes. A couple of my favorites: (In most cases, click on the picture to link)

These monogrammed mugs from Anthropologie were my bonanza this year. I adore them. Each initial comes in a different color combination, so they look very different from one another. I think they’re really pretty, have that touch of personalization and .. best part, I think they look like a $20 gift but cost $8. And if you want extra credit, you can fill them with candy, homemade small cookies or even quotes. I bought eleven of these this year. #Winning.


Katie made these next two at our local bead shop.

The one above is for her fabulous art teacher – the same teacher who encouraged us to bring Brooke to the after-school art class this year. The same one who taught my little perfectionist that mistakes can be wonderful. The same one who leads the charge during inclusion week every year. Yeah, that one. (Sorry about the photo. Took it with my phone.)

Let’s just say she’d definitely be getting a pony.


And this one is for her classroom teacher ..

In the one above you can see the full ribbon. It simply ties in a bow to make a choker. And it’s lovely, don’t you think? Best part? Shhh – they cost less than $5 each.


Now this next one I know was a hit last year when I gave it as the favor for the inclusion lunch. I’m positive, because a couple of the aides still mention it, and not to tell me how crappy it was. So I think they liked it. I didn’t actually purchase the one in the picture, but instead printed out copies of the poem on nice white paper and framed them myself. Thanks to a local discount store (Marshall’s and TJ Maxx are great resources), I was able to put them together for about $6 each.

This year’s favor took some creativity since we nearly doubled the number of people we honored at the lunch. In thinking about what to get, I found myself stuck on angels. These people are, in so many cases, guardian angels to our kids. So I googled angels and found these adorable little bookmarks..

and wrote these to go with them ..

As long as we’re on angels, I’ll stick to the theme. I am in love with the Willow Tree Angels. They’re sold online and in every Hallmark Paper Store. They run between $8 and $30 with most around $13. This is the one that Brooke chose for her utterly fabulous ‘helper teacher’ this year.

They just melt my heart.


Speaking of melting (groan), we thought these made a lovely little token for the assistants in Katie’s class …

And at $4.50 they ain’t gonna break the bank.


This next one was a bit of a splurge, but I thought they were just too perfect not to get for Brooke’s adaptive PE teacher ..

They’re sneakers! Isn’t that sorta fabulous? But thanks to the fancy packaging and the Williams Sonoma name, they’re $12. I wonder if they have them at the candy shop. Hmm. Might be a more economical way to go.


I know it’s probably a little cheezy, but I’ve always liked the apple-for-the-teacher theme. There’s the sterling silver necklace …

.. which sure as heck doesn’t look like it cost $6, does it?


Or the ornament ..

.. which maybe sort of does look like it cost $3.99. but it’s still really cute, no?


Last but not least, a couple of really great ideas from friends. This one is from my friend, Carrie and I think it’s fabulous ..

It’s $8 for a 5×7 print or $4 for a bookmark.


And this from my friend, Mom-NOS ..

Adorable measuring spoons. What teacher doesn’t want to hear that they have just the right recipe for your child’s success? There’s a minimum order on this particular one, but at $1.75 a piece, it might not hurt to stock up. They make great stocking-stuffers too.


Lastly, I love that these are personalized. Like the mugs, you could fill them with candy or homemade cookies, or inspirational quotes that the teacher could pull out every day. Nothing like starting your day with a little Gandhi reminding you to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

These have a pretty high minimum, but at $1.37 all in, it’s probably well worth stocking them. You can also get them singly at most craft shops, but the price will be much higher.


I’m out of time, but I hope these ideas are helpful. If nothing else maybe they’ll lead you to some other ideas of your own. I just know that this time of year when we’re swimming upstream on so many levels, it can be tough to think straight. That said, the most important thing to remember is that there’s nothing that means more than the gratitude behind the gift. So please don’t feel pressured to buy anything. A heartfelt note means no less – and often far more – than anything bought in a store.

Besides, ponies kinda smell.

I’d love to hear your gift ideas in the comments!

28 thoughts on “thank you gifts

  1. Love them all…very creative and thrifty…but hell…just buy them all a DVD of Godspell ………. that’d keep ‘Brooke’ and me both happy!!!! Big Christmas hugs to you all from Down Under! x 🙂

  2. I always give a Christmas decoration with M’s name and the year on the bottom so as they hang that decoration on their tree every year, they give him another thought and a nice one I hope. It doesn’t have to be a big or expensive decoration, one year it was trains when he was big on trains, another year animals when that was his thing, this year I couldn’t find Mr Men ones, because that would have been perfect.
    Last year though to a teacher that had made a terrible year just slightly bearable (for him and for us), he gave her the best gift ever, as we were leaving on the last day, he summonsed all his words and courage and turned to her, looked out from under his hat and said “I’m going to miss you”. Queue waterworks, then and now, whenever I think about it. Never have 4 words meant so much.

      • Not unless you’re moving to Australia and we’d welcome you with open arms, I think we’re safe.

        I have put the words on a different background, printed it on card, tomorrow I laminate and Wednesday it will be presented to the Principal to put up in the staff common room so that all of them can think about how they impact on kids lives – and hopefully make that a positive impact as often as possible – thank you.

  3. The most treasured gifts I received (and the ones I ALWAYS keep) are the notes that said how I made a difference for the child. Those are also the ones that made me cry.

    On the dark days, those notes always remind me what I do and why. They cost nothing, but they do take time. Sorry – I know that’s at a premium, but is the most treasured gift.

  4. Over the last few years I have been unable to afford to purchase gifts for the many people who work with my kids so I have written some of the best appreciation notes – which were very well received. I plan to do that again, however, I read a book this year that was simply one that I had to buy to give as gifts – not just for educators but friends and family as well. This book is so moving and profound. It simply must be shared. The book is called Out of My Mind written by Sharon Draper. It is written from the view point of an 11 year old non-verbal girl – she does not have autism but a different disability but no matter – the impact of this book will never leave you.

    Here is the description: Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it. From multiple Coretta Scott King Award winner Sharon M. Draper comes a story full of heartache and hope. Get ready to meet a girl whose voice you’ll never, ever forget.

  5. This year I started working on gifts in October. NO, I”m definitely NOT one of those ambitious holiday shoppers who is all done by Thanksgiving! However, last year I waiting until the last minute to shop for Nicky’s teachers and aides, and since I really did want to buy them each a brand new car, I ended up spending way too much on their gifts. Believe me, they deserved every last cent that I spent on them, but times are tight.

    So, this year, I kept my eye open for online sales, and in October I ended up buying little photo albums from Vera Bradley. They are really cute, come in different patterns, and I plan on putting one picture of Nicky in each of them. I also went to Christmas Tree shops (but dollar stores have them, too) and bought those little tins with the Christmas patterns on them, and I’m going to fill them with home-baked Christmas cookies. I also bought plain brown shopping bags that had felt Holiday appliques on them at Christmas Tree Shops to put everything in. Please keep in mind, I only have 9 to buy for – but it was all still pretty inexpensive – and PRETTY – which goes a long way 🙂

  6. GREAT ideas!! I wish I read this last week, as I have as many as you have to thank and I went sorta crazeeee at the Pottery Barn one day sale last week. They had bottle stoppers (cute way to recork wine) on sale for $10 each – usually $20-30 each and they are beautiful. However, not so personal, except to say…. I don’t know…. to help you save your precious adult beverage after working with our kids all day long… I jest, but will have to figure that one out. For the few who do not drink wine, I am going to use some of your ideas – really helpful, adorable and personal!

  7. I LOVE the framed poem idea. I am SO using that!!! I’m usually a gift card giver. D n D and Barnes and Noble are my standard…but these are so sweet and so personal! Love them all! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  8. Two more recommendations of wonderful books (to follow Angela F’s)

    “Following Ezra” by Tom Fields-Meyer

    “This story will illuminate the experience of parenting a child with autism for those who don’t know it, and will resonate with those of us who know it all too well,” says novelist Cammie McGovern. “There are blessings along the way, and Tom Fields-Meyer depicts them beautifully.”

    “I’m Here” by Peter Reynolds
    “Eloquent, fanciful text and illustrations that sparkle with clarity … any child who is isolated, introverted or simply self-contained will find something of him- or herself to recognize and appreciate here … an excellent selection, replete with warmth, originality and the promise of good things to come.”

  9. I love these! The poem is great…I am totally borrowing it. We have 17 people to shop for this year!

    My son has 5 exceptional people who always do what’s best for him. They are getting $10 bottles of “Hands of Hope” lotion from Philosophy. (Found it at Ulta) I wrote each teacher/therapist a special note thanking them for giving our kid a chance and for giving us hope as we see more milestones met.

  10. As a school employee…I’m SO glad to see that you didn’t add any lotion to your gifts! I think I have at least one of every option from Bath and Body Works. It’s not that I’m ungrateful but it’s nice to see someone think outside the box! One thing all of the staff I work with can agree on…we love gift cards, even if they’re just $5 to the local coffee shop.

  11. We give all the aides, therapists, and teachers in Dominic’s life (and we’ve got about 15 this year) a nice christmas tree ornament with his picture in it each year. This way, they can take the picture out if they want and they’ve still got a pretty ornament.

  12. I gave each of my son’s teacher’s (main classroom teacher, speach, ot, reading coach, social skills) a box of chocolates. Because, as quoted from Forrest Gump “My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

  13. Last year, the class mom went way overboard and asked that each family contribute something like $70 dollars! I think that is insane. I haven’t heard from this year’s class mom.

  14. For all the different therapists I bought scented mini hand sanitizing gel and put it in a holder that attaches to your purse. Because meeting with so many different kids will make you want to keep your sanitizer close. And to my sons two ABA, because they travel around in their cars a lot I got them air fresheners for the vents from Yankee candle. Everyone also got fresh baked cookies.

  15. I love from Penzy’s the Kind Heart Gift Box and the Teachers Gift Box. They are $8.78 and $7.95. The Kind Heart is such a pretty box with a heart.

    Teacher’s Gift Box

    Every Teachers Gift Box includes a 1/2 cup jar of Penzeys Forward!, a 1/4 cup jar of Penzeys Cinnamon, a Teachers Care bumper sticker, a colorful Teach! pin and a Teach! book of stories and recipes celebrating the spirit of kindness. It’s a great way to tell a teacher that you know what they’re doing is important.

    ■1/2 cup jar Penzeys Forward!
    ■1/4 cup jar Penzeys Cinnamon
    ■Teach! pin
    ■Teachers Care bumper sticker
    ■Teach! book of stories and recipes

    I really hope that they like this as much as I do.

  16. Sorry Jess, no gift ideas! Hope you don’t mind though…. I wrote a blog post for new parents and put in your link for ‘Welcome to the Club’. Sorry that I didn’t ask for permission but didn’t think you would mind!! 🙂
    Have a happy Xmas! Best wishes from South Africa!

  17. Best gifts I ever got as a classroom teacher were personal notes/drawings. I have a few framed (some of the notes were hilarious), and I still refer to them when I need a pick-me-up. I’ve had Zach do it the last two years, and that’s what the teacher mentioned each time in her thank-you note. So simple, but really meaningful!

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